When you lose a candidate to a counter-offer, you may be asking what could you have done differently to close them, but as the great Vin Diesel once said “You almost had me? You never had me – you never had your car.” It starts at the beginning.  

As a sales recruiting organization, we are always getting calls from our clients, desperate to make a hire after losing a candidate to a counter-offer from their current company.  The job market is booming, unemployment rates in sales are the lowest they have been since 2000 and ‘quits’ the highest they have ever been (US Bureau of Labor Statistics). It’s a candidate driven market and it is being driven by aggressive salary and compensation packages that your competitors are willing to pay.  Doing your research and partnering with a firm that can educate you on the market and candidate’s compensation requirements is only part of the solution.  So, what can you do to stay competitive, retain talent, and close candidates outside of increasing your budget?

Headcount and Budget Approvals:

Once you’ve identified a top candidate and are ready to pull the trigger, nothing is worse than waiting on your CRO, CFO or anyone else to approve budgets, draft offer letters and sign off on agreements.  It also causes doubt at the candidate level. Imagine spending a few weeks and several hours of your time interviewing with an organization and then hearing nothing due to “waiting on internal approvals”. It leaves the candidate feeling uneasy – if it takes this long to get a ‘simple’ offer letter out, how long does it take to get approval on a deal?  In the fluid and flexible work culture that today’s market is demanding, it makes your organization seem unorganized, dated and rigid. 

Process – Make it simple:

Ensuring a smooth candidate process is something that is completely in the employer’s control but often times overlooked. Put yourself in the candidate’s shoes; wouldn’t it be nice to know from the start what the entire interview process looks like, who you will be interviewing with, and what the time frame to hire looks like? Long and lengthy interview processes are a thing of the past.  As a sales manager, make sure you are on the same page with your HR and recruiting team and be prepared to move quickly on strong candidates. 

Ask Early, Ask Often:

Want to know where else a candidate is interview and how your organization stack-ranks? ASK! But you should also want to know why the candidate is looking to make a move. This gives you a chance to see how competitive you are in the market, what other employers may be offering that you are not, and gives you the ability to adjust accordingly.


Talk about your organization, where you are in the market, what you are offering, and what the career path looks like.  Candidates not only want to understand what you are offering today, but if they join your team they want to know what they expect in the future. As we all know, telling is not selling – have them sit with a rep on your team that has experienced some adversity, shown the grit to succeed, and has been successful. Many candidates are in the market because of unclear or inaccurate expectations around growth or lack of promotion.  Your existing team can be one of your best assets in helping to close a top candidate and set you apart.


Set expectations that an offer is coming and you will require an answer in 24-48 hours. Ask them how that lines up with their time frame. More often than not HR or your recruiting partner will be the one reaching out to extend the verbal offer.  As a sales manager, you know the candidate and have built the relationship so make sure to follow-up with the candidate after an offer is extended. Ask them how they are feeling and what else they need to make a decision.

Close Again:

Get an understanding of how their organization typically handles resignation; will they require them to stay the full two-weeks? Will they walk them out the door?  In sales, if the organization keeps them for the two-weeks this should be a red-flag to the new employer. Likely the company is trying to find a way to keep the employee. Make sure to keep candidates engaged during the “accepted, signed offer to start-date window”. Follow-up on all paperwork and onboarding documents, get their preference for the type of computer/phone they want, and suggest a lunch with you or the team prior to the start-date.  Email them a few days before their start date and let them know where to go, what to wear, etc. The last thing you want is for the candidate to accept your offer and then “ghost” you on the first day. Keeping them engaged and giving them additional buy-in from the time the offer letter goes out to the day their start is imperative.

In today’s market, candidates are selectively looking for a variety of reasons and you want your firm to stand out and lock down the talent.  Setting expectations, understanding the pushes and pulls of their search, and remembering to keep the lines of communication open throughout and after the interview process are key factors to securing top candidates and expanding your sales team.

Published On: July 10th, 2019Categories: Best Hiring Practices, Sales Recruiting

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